Rookies DeCastro & Adams Look To Buck Steelers History By Both Starting Week 1

The recent report by Ed Bouchette stating that second round tackle Mike Adams is in the plans of the Pittsburgh Steelers to get the first crack at the starting left tackle spot is not earth shattering news in nature, especially when you look at the potential candidates currently on the roster that could compete for the job. What is kind of mind blowing though is that if indeed that comes to fruition, and first round pick David DeCastro starts at right guard, it would mean that two rookies would be starting on the Steelers offensive line when they line up week one against the Denver Broncos.

This would be the first time that this feat has occurred since at least 1978, and there is a good chance that it dates even further back than that. I have only been able to pull the Steelers week one starting offensive lines dating back to 1979, so that covers the last 33 seasons. Dating back to 1979, only four rookie offensive linemen have cracked the week one starting lineup for the Steelers and they were: Tom Ricketts at left guard (1989), Marvel Smith at right tackle (2000) and Maurkice Pouncey at center (2010). That leaves two positions on the offensive line that the Steelers have not had rookies start at since at least at least 1978, and both of those positions are left tackle and right guard, the positions that Adams and DeCastro aim to start at respectively.

Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson and Alan Faneca were all drafted by the Steelers, but none of the three started week one of their rookie year. Webster has long been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Dawson will join him in that distinction later this summer and Faneca will not be too far behind in getting that honor as well.

I have stated since the Steelers drafted DeCastro that I believe he is a plug and play guard right from the get-go. I would be shocked if he is not the starting right guard in Denver. Really shocked. Adams, on the other hand, I have my reservations about. He has the tools and prototypical size, but I worry if he will be ready to protect the blind side of Ben Roethlisberger against the Broncos. While the Steelers might be claiming that starting two rookies on the offensive line is their plan in Denver, the odds are certainly against it happening. It might even make Super Bowl era history for the Steelers should it occur.

It sure is fun to go back and look at all of these names over the years and please feel free to pass along the week 1 starting offensive lines from 1966-1978 if you are absolutely positive about them.

Pittsburgh Steelers Week 1 Starting Offensive Lines 1979-2011

1970Mike HaggertySam DavisRay MansfieldBruce Van DykeJohn Brown
1971Jon KolbSam DavisRay MansfieldBruce Van DykeJohn Brown
1972Jon KolbSam DavisRay MansfieldBruce Van DykeGerry Mullins
1973Jon KolbSam DavisRay MansfieldBruce Van DykeGlen Ray Hines
1974Jon KolbSam DavisRay MansfieldGerry MullinsGordon Gravelle
1975Jon KolbJim ClackRay MansfieldGerry MullinsGordon Gravelle
1976Jon KolbJim ClackRay MansfieldGerry MullinsGordon Gravelle
1977Ray PinneyJim ClackMike WebsterGerry MullinsLarry Brown
1978Jon KolbSam DavisMike WebsterGerry MullinsLarry Brown
1979Jon KolbSam DavisMike WebsterGerry MullinsTed Peterson
1980Jon KolbRay PinneyMike WebsterSteve CoursonLarry Brown
1981Jon KolbCraig WolfleyMike WebsterSteve CoursonLarry Brown
1982Ray PinneyCraig WolfleyMike WebsterSteve CoursonLarry Brown
1983Ted PetersenCraig WolfleyMike WebsterSteve CoursonLarry Brown
1984Tunch IlkinCraig WolfleyMike WebsterBlake WingleLarry Brown
1985Pete RostoskyCraig WolfleyMike WebsterTerry LongTunch Ilkin
1986Ray PinneyRandy RasmussenDan TurkTerry LongMark Behning
1987Craig WolfleyJohn RienstraMike WebsterBuddy AydeletteTerry Long
1988Craig WolfleyJohn RienstraMike WebsterTerry LongTunch Ilkin
1989Craig WolfleyTom RickettsDermontti DawsonBrian BlankenshipTunch Ilkin
1990John JacksonJohn RienstraDermontti DawsonTerry LongTunch Ilkin
1991John JacksonBrian BlankenshipDermontti DawsonCarlton HaselrigTunch Ilkin
1992John JacksonDuval LoveDermontti DawsonCarlton HaselrigTunch Ilkin
1993John JacksonDuval LoveDermontti DawsonCarlton HaselrigLeon Searcy
1994John JacksonDuval LoveDermontti DawsonTodd KalisLeon Searcy
1995John JacksonTom NewberryDermontti DawsonJustin StrzelczykLeon Searcy
1996John JacksonWill WolfordDermontti DawsonJustin StrzelczykBernard Dafney
1997John JacksonWill WolfordDermontti DawsonBrenden StaiJustin Strzelczyk
1998Will WolfordRoger DuffyDermontti DawsonBrenden StaiJustin Strzelczyk
1999Wayne GandyAlan FanecaDermontti DawsonBrenden StaiChris Conrad
2000Wayne GandyAlan FanecaDermontti DawsonRich TylskiMarvel Smith
2001Wayne GandyAlan FanecaJeff HartingsRich TylskiMarvel Smith
2002Wayne GandyAlan FanecaJeff HartingsOliver RossMarvel Smith
2003Marvel SmithAlan FanecaJeff HartingsKendall SimmonsTodd Fordham
2004Marvel SmithAlan FanecaJeff HartingsKeydrick VincentOliver Ross
2005Marvel SmithAlan FanecaJeff HartingsKendall SimmonsMax Starks
2006Marvel SmithAlan FanecaJeff HartingsKendall SimmonsMax Starks
2007Marvel SmithAlan FanecaSean MahanKendall SimmonsWillie Colon
2008Marvel SmithChris KemoeatuJustin HartwigKendall SimmonsWillie Colon
2009Max StarksChris KemoeatuJustin HartwigTrai EssexWillie Colon
2010Max StarksChris KemoeatuMaurkice PounceyTrai EssexFlozell Adams
2011Jonathan ScottChris KemoeatuMaurkice PounceyDoug LegurskyWillie Colon

  • Intropy

    What an astounding run at center.

  • Dave

    It would be unprecedented for the Steelers, but not impossible…

    In 2010, the 49ers took OT Anthony Davis with pick 11 and OG Mike Iupati at pick 17, started both as rookies, and they have started 32 games together not including playoffs.

    It seems to me that Kugler ideally wants to built that type of continuity… put the 5 best guys out there early and give them time to “gel” in the pre-season, ideally not have to flip-flop guys around… Adams, Colon, Pouncey, DD, Gilbert – barring injury.

  • Dave


    Looking at the chart above, it’s also very rare for the Steelers to start the exact same O-line 2 years in a row… the only time was 2005-2006… I never really thought about that before. There has been at least one change every single year except 2005-2006, sometimes 2 or 3 new starters from year to year.

  • You have to think that the success of Maurkice Pouncey, and Marcus Gilbert changed the thought process, and expectations for rookie offensive lineman. I realize that inserting Gilbert into the starting line up wasn’t a planned thing, but he was successful none the less. Now imagine how much more successful he could have been, if he there was a normal off-season prior to the 2011 season, and if he was able to work with the starters during training camp. Another thing to consider, just because Adams has been named the starter headed into camp, doesn’t mean he can’t lose the job to someone else during training camp.

  • I’m not too worried about having a rookie protect Ben’s blind side. The rest of the O-line is solid enough, that it will be easy to cover Adams up, until he gets some experience under his belt. Adams isn’t going to be expected to play on an island, at least not initially. I would expect that Adams will get plenty of TE help early on. With Colon on his right, and Miller pitching in on his left, Adams will have plenty of talent around him, to ensure his success.

  • James

    If Mendenhall were behind a better O-Line, he might have been in the Probowl. These guys could make Redman, who already busts through blockers, look really good.

  • SteelersDepot

    Just my own FYI: 1975 week line was Jon Kolb, Jim Clack, Ray Mansfield, Gerry Mullins, Gordon Gravelle

  • Maybe. TO me, Mendenhall’s biggest issue is that he doesn’t always want it bad enough. He has the talent, but he doesn’t play each game like he wants to tear it up.

  • SteelersBall

    “especially when you look at the potential candidates currently on the roster that could compete for the job”. Pretty much says it all.

  • SteelersBall

    Terry Long went to my university. he was a strong strong man. Use to piss me off with his two left feet.

  • Jprankster2005

    I look at last years starting 5 compared to what this year will be and now I see the much improvement and why Big Ben will be happy for more years to come……. Pouncey,Decastro,Colon,Gilbert and Adams and Foster backup with Legursky Essex and Starks if he signs backs……. Way better starting lineup than last yr……. I just hope they release Scott…….Dont’ know what there waiting on Maybe it’s to see if Starks is able to come back…… But hes a bum and a rookie could take his spot and do better…..

  • Jprankster2005

    Exactly……. What i think as well…….. And is the reason I hope a player breaks out this yr. and maybe even 2 while he’s out…… And they don’t resign him after the season……. I think Dwyer could be a good FB and Redman Batch as Rb’s…… Mix Rainey in there a little they could all do good things…… The only one I dont’ care to much about is Clay, But he’s a good Practice squad body.

  • Pat

    Adams right now is better than any tackle on the roster. Period. Not his fault. Kugler/Haley will only play the best guy out there. Could see Gilbert over there and Adams at RT. If Colon was such a good tackle he would not be moving to guard.

  • mokhkw

    As time passes and more NCAA teams run Pro-Style Offenses and Defenses I think we’ll see this become the norm.

    In the past, an OL out of College was a good run-blocker but still needed work on pass blocking. similarly a DL or LB was more proficient at playing the run because that is what they saw a majority of the time.

    Now that seems to be flipped – OL out of College are likely to need more work on run blocking ( like Adams) & DE/LB can make an impact as a pass-rusher (Aldon Smith) even if they’re still suspect vs the run. Few NFL teams have a run first mentality anymore, in the past you had to prove you could stop the run & make the other team pass – now teams pass 1st anyway.

    Consequently, rookie OL have already faced good pass-rushers in college and have been exposed to a variety of moves and techniques.

    Same goes for WRs – it used to be uncommon to see mid or late round WRs making an impact, usually only the elite 1st Round talent could be expected to do that.

    The college game is now more similar to the NFL that it has ever been and players have experience doing what is needed for the Pros. OSU ( and other programs) even use that as a recruiting tool – come to the Buckeyes and learn the schemes and skills you’ll need for playing in the NFL.

  • SteelerDave

    Adams, Colon, Pouncey, DeCastro, Gilbert = the best line the Steelers have had since the days of Larry Brown and Mike Webster – at least in potential barring injury. Sure Adams needs to develop and is the least ready but he has the size and skill set. Adams has to be hungry and want this to make it happen. If he can stay clean, grow up, man up, focus on learning we could be in for a great O-line for the first time in Bens career.

  • mokhkw

    Nice article (again) Dave, but I think (in this case at least) you really don’t need to go any further back than mid/late 90’s to make comparisons with today’s NFL.

  • Cols714

    How exactly would you know that Mendenhall doesn’t want it bad enough?

  • Clearly, you can’t know what’s in a guys heart. But you can draw conclusions based on the evidence. You realize that was my opinion, not presented as fact, right? When he has been benched, threatened with a loss of playing time, or there is a growing clamor against his play, he responds strongly and runs harder. But he doesn’t do it consistently in my opinion.

  • Pete

    Yes. We also should not forget Art Rooney commented he wanted to see faster development of young players. Bouchette mentioned this in today’s post. Since Rooney’s comments, Mike Wallace started. Pouncey started, Gilbert got extensive playing time last season as a rookie and now we’ll probably see two rookie starters on offense. It’s not unusual in the context of Rooney’s comments. Also, as per Bouchette’s post, Rooney wanted a more effective running game and since Arians didn’t comply, he’s now gone.